#TeamKatniss: Deconstructing the Centrality of Romance to Female Characterization

This is sort of an addendum to a great post by Christian.

You might have heard about this contrived “Team Peeta” versus “Team Gale” thing going on around The Hunger Games franchise. Director Gary Ross, when asked the question, said bluntly: “Team Katniss.” Several actors have followed suit.

Exhibit A: Willow Shields (Primrose Everdeen)

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Exhibit B: Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) and Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne)

[ source ]

People have pointed out that The Hunger Games is basically the antithesis to Twilight. I agree, to an extent. The Hunger Games stands in opposition not just to one book/series, but to a whole popular culture rooted in the imagination of women as sexual objects.

Think of just about any popular book or movie. Chances are, the leading woman (if there is one) has a storyline knotted around a romantic interest/conflict. Think: Mean Girls, ostensibly about deconstructing certain pathologies of teenage femininity. Think: the entire chick flick industry. Somewhere, somehow, the minute a woman enters the picture, a romantic interest has to follow. (See: my frustrations with Real Women Have Curves and Girlfight.)

The Hunger Games breaks with this paradigm. Katniss Everdeen cares about both Peeta and Gale but could take them or leave them (actual quote). They are not the center of her world, and not the point of her story. This is not to devalue love (as opposed to, oh, more masculine indicators of subjectivity). This is to say that romance is not, should not, cannot be the sole marker of a woman’s subjectivity and character.

The best part, of course, is that the media storm of #TeamPeeta vs. #TeamGale is doing exactly what The Hunger Games narratively and theoretically expects of pop culture. And which it methodically deconstructs, showing the machinations of romance narratives. Katniss has her own affections — for her family, and for Peeta and Gale as well — but the whole “love of her life” thing is a fiction she’s forced to act out, as part of the state’s ideological control.

As a work of fiction that shows how its own narrative romances are media-constructed fictionsThe Hunger Games effectively breaks with the cycle. So when the real media turns around and tries to do exactly the same thing, it’s easy to see it for the construct that it is.


3 thoughts on “#TeamKatniss: Deconstructing the Centrality of Romance to Female Characterization

  1. I’m obsessed with this post. It’s everything I could have ever wanted and more! I especially love, “As a work of fiction that shows how its own narrative romances are media-constructed fictions, The Hinger Games effectively breaks with the cycle.” I think it’s interesting that even when the actual series tries to break away from such cycle, we refuse to let it.

    When I wrote my post about comparing Katniss to a sexless woman (as imagined by writers like Ibsen) I obviously didn’t mean for her to be completely cut-off from a romantic life, but rather (as you write it) “This is to say that romance is not, should not, cannot be the sole marker of a woman’s subjectivity and character.” I actually think this is what Ibsen may have been referring to when he thought of the sexless woman. He may have imagined someone who’s entire life didn’t revolve around a woman’s love life. Your post actually helped me make this connection, so thank you!

    And I hadn’t seen the Josh/Liam interview about the whole love triangle, but I’m actually very impressed with their responses.

    Thanks for a great post!!

    • Thanks Christian! Your post was a fascinating read for me, and made me go back and seriously think about these interviews and quotes that I’d seen floating around tumblr for months. The “Team Katniss” response is fantastic for so many reasons, but one of them is just purely syntactical – it literally centers the narrative on Katniss, rather than externalizing her subjectivity onto Peeta or Gale via romantic interest.

      #TeamKatniss for life!

  2. Yesterday I was with a 7-year-old and she was watching Disney, then looked up and said “Why is there always a boy and a girl? Why can’t it be a boy and a boy or a girl and a girl?”

    I felt like a light had just gone on in the future.

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